NY construction booms with luxury housing focus

Residential building spend up 73pc to US$11.9b in 2014 with a tilt towards high-end homes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 May, 2015, 6:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 May, 2015, 6:00am

New York City construction spending jumped 26 per cent last year to US$36 billion, led by a record amount of residential building in a market skewed toward luxury housing, according to the New York Building Congress.

Spending on residential construction surged 73 per cent to US$11.9 billion last year, exceeding an October forecast and marking the first time it has ever topped US$7 billion, the trade group said in a report.

The number of new housing units failed to keep pace, increasing 11 per cent to 20,329. That compares with more than 30,000 homes created annually between 2005 and 2008.

The numbers suggest a tilt towards building high-end homes at a time when more housing is needed that is within reach of middle-class residents, said Richard Anderson, the building congress's president. Mayor Bill de Blasio in February proposed requiring developers to include affordable housing, as well as subsidies for people at risk of losing their properties.

"The mayor has every right to be concerned," Anderson said in a telephone interview. "We are not building housing in New York City for the upper income. We're building for the super-rich."

The most expensive residential construction projects in Manhattan were a Jean Nouvel-designed building at 53 West 53rd Street, Extell Development's Nordstrom tower on West 57th Street, and others rising on Central Park South and Riverside South on the Upper West Side, according to the report.

Anderson said he was inclined to give de Blasio a break, given that last year was his first in office. "But the signs are disquieting," he said.

"An economy like New York City requires a vaster diversity of activity," he said. "It can't be sustained simply on luxury housing. It needs to be job-generating, not just construction job-generating. It needs to be targeted toward an infrastructure that will support and sustain an economy."

Non-residential construction, including office space and hotels, climbed 20 per cent to US$9.8 billion last year, the first increase since 2010. Building is likely to stay strong with the construction of the Hudson Yards project by Related Companies and Larry Silverstein's 3 World Trade Centre, the group said.

Construction employment rose about 2 per cent to 122,975 jobs, the most since 2008's 132,625 jobs.